By Amy Morford
My name is Amy Morford and I have over fifteen years of dog training experience with companion dogs, sport dogs and working breeds. My motivation to train and educate stems from my love for dogs and their unbiased loyalty and devotion. It never ceases to amaze me what dogs are capable of learning, how badly they want to please, what a good judge of character they are, and how quickly they forgive. My goal is to assist you with raising and training a well mannered, good tempered, happy, healthy, well adjusted companion, friend, partner and/or family pet.
This is a question that many dog owners ask: why is my dog frightened by thunderstorms, and how can I help? From big breeds like Alsatians to small Dachshunds, most dogs are frightened of loud noises like thunder, lawn mowers, gunshots, fireworks, and sirens. While us as humans understand the cause of these events and aren’t scared by them (although hearing a gunshot in your neighborhood would be quite scary), dogs don’t have the same level of understanding as us. There are a few reasons why thunderstorms will result in a scared dog:
Your dogs’ ears might be quite sensitive. This happens a lot in purebred dogs, but it’s true that dogs have better hearing than humans. This is why they can hear ultra-high sounds but this is also why they are afraid of such loud noises; to them it is a lot louder than it is to us.
The sounds bring up bad memories. If loud noises make your dog scared then it could be reliving a bad trauma. For dogs, good and productive memories easily wipe out the bad, but if something very traumatic happened to the dog then this could result in a phobia. There are tales of dogs that are afraid of thunderstorms who loved them until a tree broke a window and showered them with glass. Because of this fright, the dog forever associates the environmental noises of thunder with being hurt and you have a scared dog on your hands.
The static before a storm upsets your dogs’ fur. The static charge before an electrical storm can be felt by humans as well as animals; it’s why the hair on the back of your arms raises even when the clouds are still on the horizon. A dog frightened by a thunderstorm might not be scared at all, it might just be very uncomfortable.
Regardless of which of these things is the reasons that your dog is scared, there are some methods that can make your dog less scared during storm season. There are two conflicting arguments about how to turn a dog scared into a placid dog during a thunderstorm. One argument states that if you cuddle and pet your dog more often during the storm then your dog will think that the noise is something to be frightened by. Even if your dog calms down after ten minutes of petting it might still be afraid. Other people say that leaving a scared dog to fend for itself will lead to the greater terror, not the other way around. Knowing the kind of dog that you have and their history will give you the edge here. Some dogs are naturally afraid by many things like gunshots, fireworks, and sirens, others are attention seekers, and others still have had traumatic pasts. Please use your own judgement when reading the follows ways to help a dog afraid of environmental noises:
Make a safe place for your dog that has a hot water bottle, a soft blanket, and a chew toy. Even with the noise raging the dog will feel safer here.
Allow the dog to cuddle up to you and your family but don’t be too lax with the rules. If your dog isn’t allowed on the couch then don’t let it sit on it during a storm.
For a dog afraid of thunder, after every thunder clap, give it a small treat. This positive reinforcement will help your dog to relax and maybe even enjoy the noise.
If you have a dog frightened by loud noises make sure to let it know that it is safe with you, and know that you are not alone.